A demoted Bibb County school manager has filed suit against the district, contending that she was discriminated against because of her race, age and gender.
Cheryl Canty-Aaron, 51, filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Macon on Aug. 15.
Former school Superintendent Romain Dallemand hired Canty-Aaron in August 2012 as the capital program administrator. The suit alleges that she found a dearth of minority contractors among those employed or eligible to work on the district’s 2010 Capital Improvement Program and a “discriminatory process selecting local and minority participants.”
The suit also names the school board and interim Superintendent Steve Smith as defendants.
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Canty-Aaron’s suit alleges that Smith, the district and the board violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other federal statutes based on her treatment and later demotion. She is seeking money for lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as reinstatement to a position at or above her previous title.
In an emailed statement, district spokeswoman Stephanie Hartley wrote: “Although we have not received official notification of a lawsuit, we have been informed that Ms. Canty-Aaron has filed a complaint in federal court. We have no comment on the matter at this time.”
Canty-Aaron contends that she was demoted and shuffled out of her position after Smith took over as interim superintendent.
After she was hired, Canty-Aaron said she brought the issue of potential discrimination in contracting to Dallemand’s attention. When she did, Dallemand empowered her to make changes in the process, according to the suit, but warned her that “such actions could put her job in jeopardy.”
The suit states that the problems Canty-Aaron experienced began to arise once Dallemand left the school system. The suit alleges that Susanne Griffin-Zeibart, an acting superintendent at one point, told Canty-Aaron that she “should be looking for another job because she is black just like Dallemand, and Dallemand is no longer there to protect” her, and that Canty-Aaron “would be a fool not to be looking for other employment.”
The suit also claims that Smith put Canty-Aaron’s changes in selecting new contractors and expenditures “on hold” following his appointment, limiting the changes and her ability to deal with new contracts.
In July 2013, the suit alleges, Canty-Aaron noticed that vendor lists were once again made up solely of all white vendors. She brought the matter to Smith’s attention and was subsequently excluded from meetings she previously had a prominent role in.
In August 2013, Jason Daniel, “a 39-year-old white male,” was brought in “to work with” Canty-Aaron, according to the suit. Soon afterward, Daniel was named executive director of capital programs, and though she was told her duties would not change, they did. Daniel’s position took over her previous duties, and she was told she would have to apply for a new position of safety environmental manager that had been created for her. She was also forced to move her office to a warehouse, and her pay was cut by more than 50 percent, according to the suit.
In May, she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint “after enduring this demeaning and discriminatory treatment for approximately two years.”
After the complaint, she was given a bad performance review, her first, which she refused to sign, the suit states. She is still employed as safety environmental manager with the district.
To contact writer Mark Vanderhoek, call 744-4331.